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Sevilla’s Culture of Flamenco

Sevilla, Spain

Sevilla, Spain’s fourth-largest city, is considered the home of flamenco — the sensuous dance in which the women twirl and the men do fancy footwork, accompanied by lively guitar music. Women dress up outfits with accessories — shawls, mantillas, and fans.

Complete Video Script

In the 20th century, 1992 to be exact, Sevilla hosted a World’s Fair that left the city with today’s striking 21st-century infrastructure: dramatic bridges, a sleek new train system, and even a new airport. Today, with 700,000 people, it’s Spain’s fourth-largest city…an exuberant Andalusian capital.

But the charm of Sevilla is best enjoyed in its traditions — like flamenco. Spaniards consider Andalucía the home of flamenco. While impromptu flamenco still erupts spontaneously in Old World bars, most tourists attend a show like this. The men do most of the machine-gun footwork.

The women concentrate on graceful turns and a smooth, dramatic step. Flamenco guitarists, with their lightning-fast finger-roll strums, are among the best in the world. The intricate rhythms are set by castanets and hand-clapping. In the raspy-voiced wails of the singers you’ll hear echoes of the Muslim call to prayer — an evocative reminder of centuries of Moorish rule.

The town square is Plaza Nueva. It honors King Ferdinand III, fondly remembered for freeing Sevilla from the Moors in the 13th century. From here, wander into Sevilla’s pedestrian-zone shopping center — which Spaniards prefer to the suburban mall. This is the place for traditional Spanish fashions. But I wouldn’t know my Manchego from my mantilla without a little local help.

My friend and local tour guide, Concepción Delgado, has agreed to be my personal shopper.

Rick: So there are all these traditional things to buy…isn’t it just for tourists that they sell these?
Concepción: No way. These are for locals. We love our things. We have preserved our traditions for centuries.
Rick: So these traditions are healthy?
Concepción: Completely. This one of my favorite shops. Buenos días.
Rick: Hola.
Concepción: Now let me show you the three most traditional accessories that women wear in Spain. Shawls, mantillas, and fans. Starting with the shawls that you can see here. A big display of beautiful colors and embroideries, which are very practical for us, too. We would use them as accessories, but they also have a function, which is warming you when you’re cold.

This is what we wear on top of the beautiful, nice flamenco dresses to attend to the April Feria. On top of the flamenco dress you cannot wear a simple coat, you have to wear something more distinguished, which is a shawl. You can leave it like that…it’s more sexy.

Here we’ve got the mantilla. The mantilla is another accessory, which can be in two colors: white or black. It’s always combined with this comb, which is incorporated in the mantilla like this…and then we wear that on our heads. The white one is for only the Feria, for the festival in April when women wear them to attend the bullfights.

Let’s have a look at the fans now. As you can see, very different colors, different materials, but they are mostly made in wood. Remember that Sevilla gets very hot during the summer and women, old ladies, use them when they attend services. Very old churches are not air-conditioned. They are cooling themselves like this. Sometimes you hardly hear the priest. Just [thumping]. That’s all around you.

In the old days, there was a language with fans which is disappearing, but in the love game it was very useful too. For example, if you were looking at someone that you weren’t very interested in…you can go away because I don’t like you much. But if you were really interested, that movement would tell him something, don’t you think? Anyway, the most common movement for a fan is…